Monday, May 2, 2011

Some thoughts on the death of Osama Bin Laden

I missed the breaking news last night about the death of Osama Bin Laden. I was enjoying a wonderful couple of hours around a fire with my husband. With Lent, Easter and other pressing needs at the church, we had not had time to really relax together for what seems like a very long time. So with great innocence I texted out that we had to choose between roasted marshmallows or roasted Twinkies and the Twinkies won. I am sure that showed up in the midst of all the tweets and facebooks posts about the breaking news.

I am not sorry I didn't know earlier. I would have probably glued myself to the television or computer instead of focusing my time and energy on Andrew. My texted tweet/post must have seemed a bit inane to those who saw it.

I find myself oddly indifferent to the news. There is relief that this man will not be able to mastermind any more horrible acts of terrorism. There is certainty that someone else within that organization will. There is no joy in the partying that has taken over some of our city streets. There is sadness that this will not fix what is wrong in the world.

I have no deep words of wisdom. Violence continues to beget violence in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and other places. The fires of hatred continue to be fueled and I see no end in sight. This is not pessimistic for me, but a reality as I look over the pages of history.

As a woman of faith, how do I find ways to live, to speak, to witness to a God of peace, a God of love, a God of hope and yes a God of justice. When will that time come when "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hook; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Micah 4:3) I am aware that this longing has been around for centuries and yet war is as real now as it has ever been.

Since I have no wisdom, I will pray. Pray for those who this death brings closure after 10 years. Pray for those who continue to serve all over the world in order to bring stability. Pray for those who work for peace and work to help others less fortunate. Pray for the President and world leaders. Pray for myself, that I might find ways to be a faithful peacemaker.

I will pray to be

Graced to Serve,

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dating Easter

A few weeks ago, we had a “super moon”. It was bright and beautiful. On Sunday, March 20 I saw that moon as we drove to church early while it was still dark. Such a gorgeous moon on the first day of spring. It flashed through my mind mid afternoon as I pondered that moon, no wonder Easter is so late, the moon was full LAST night, so now we wait.

For those who do not know, the formula for the date of Easter goes back to the early church. Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the northern hempishere's vernal equinox. TRANSLATION, Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after spring (which is usually March 21.) So Easter is dated anywhere from March 22 through April 25. This year is almost as late as Easter can be since it is April 24.

Now, the dating of Easter is slightly different for the Orthodox Church. Their calendar did not change in the Middle Ages when the Western world changed their calendar to the Gregorian calendar.. So for the Orthodox church Easter lands between April 4 and May 8 each year and always coincides with the Jewish Passover. The Western church’s Easter sometimes is a month earlier than Passover.

Last year, in 2010 and this year in 2011 both the western church and the eastern church share Easter dates. Having Easter fall on the same date two years in a row for both churches is quite unusual. It will not occur again until Easter 2037 and Easter 2038.

I share this information because I am often asked why the date of Easter moves each year. When studying the gospels the one thing that is clear is that the crucifixion occurred around the festival of the Passover. Regardless of the date, Easter is pivotal in the life of the church. Easter is the promise of new life and hope in a world that is often filled with despair and death.

No matter the date, it is a joy for all Christians to celebrate Easter together. Our experience of resurrection is what helps us be the body of Christ in the world. I invite to immerse yourself in all our or another congregaton's Holy Week activities, that in sharing those finals days with Jesus we might experience Life and Life Abundant.

I am as always, Graced to Serve

Monday, March 21, 2011

Supermoons and Spring

The article in CNN described Saturday's moon as a super moon. An event far rarer than the "blue moon" that occurs once every two and a half years on average.

"Saturday's full moon will be a super "perigee moon" -- the biggest in almost 20 years....'The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993,' said Geoff Chester with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. 'I'd say it's worth a look.'"

Of course, in Wichita, clouds covered the sky and I missed it. That is, until Sunday morning as we were driving west to come for worship at West Heights. There in the dark morning sky hung a huge moon. The dawn had hardly broken and so it was not competing with the rising sun. The moon hung bright and huge low in the western sky and it took my breath away.

While the scientific explanation of the super moon is fascinating and just the sort of thing I love to read, the experience of the moon was far more satisfying. I had been disappointed that I couldn't see it on Saturday evening. What a gift Sunday morning to see the bright and full moon in all its glory. To top it off, Sunday was the first day of spring. The days will now be longer than the nights and nature will burst forth with flowering life.

All of this is to say, that super moons and spring are a reminder to me that life is a gift and a blessing. It is easy for me to go from one task to the next and not pay attention to what is going on around. If I pay attention, I can see life breaking forth in the buds of the trees, in the greening of the grass, in the spring flowers as they unfold into yellows and reds and oranges and and pinks and purples. Even though super moons happen rarely, full moons happen each month. Sunrises and sunsets happen each day. I can open myself to the "awe-some" moments around me, or I can ignore those bits of grace that come each day.

Journeying through Lent in preparation for Easter offers me an opportunity to be more aware of Divine Love and Grace, to be more aware of the people in my life and the beauty that surrounds me. As spring continues to unfold, I am choosing this day to notice the beauty, the love and the life as it sprouts around me. By noticing these gifts I hope to remain

Graced to Serve

Monday, March 14, 2011

In disaster and in faith dwelling in the Mystery of God

Last week I heard Barbara Brown Taylor lecture on "Learning to Walk in the Dark" and "On being a Christian, Now". For those who know her work, it would be redundant for me to say she is an incredible word smith. She paints pictures and experiences and invites the listener in.

On Saturday morning her focus was on walking in the dark. That walking by faith and not sight invites one to discover which way the winds blow. Walking in the dark opens up new senses for us and new ways of experiencing God.

My favorite phrase she used was "we need to allow God a certain amount of privacy." The ways we think or speak about God are "provisional" because we cannot know God fully. As she pointed out, God comes often in ways that disguise the Divine Self, a burning bush, a pillar of fire, in a still small voice. Even the name for God, "I Am who I Am" is pretty unrevealing.

I am remembering these words as the horror continues to unfold in Japan. Already there have been preachers who have claimed the earthquake and tsunami are God's judgments for _______ and you can fill in the blank. I saw a facebook post that said this:

Sept 11th (NY) Jan 11th (Haiti) and March 11th (Japan)....Luke 21:10-11Then Jesus said to his disciples : "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes', famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. 'Jesus says for behold I come quickly, [so... ask yourself are we ready?] [Sad to say Many won't repost this msg

I don't know where this person found it, they are not the kind to create this kind of post. However, it brought back Barbara Brown Taylor's point, "We need to allow God a certain amount of privacy." In my opinion, it is the height of arrogance to look at this world and the natural and unnatural disasters and state "what God is doing". Jesus said, "no one knows the hour or the day", and yet people state God is judging/punishing and attempt to speak for a God who is transcendent and greater and more mysterious than we can possibly imagine.

The world is a fragile and finite place. Bad things happen, and the response of people of faith is to do what they can to alleviate suffering, not to make blanket and trite statements about who "sinned" or didn't "sin" as the case may be. Perhaps remembering the words of psalmist makes a great statement of faith, than checking to see if one is "ready" out of fear. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult." (Psalm 46: 1-3)

As I pray for the people of Japan, for all those who are offering aid and help and the response from around the world, I will give to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) because 100% of my gift will go to Japan to help relieve suffering. I will find ways to combat judgments and condemnations, for in the end, I believe that God is greater, more loving and more amazing than I can possibly imagine. And in having faith in that God of love I remain

Graced to Serve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading and Renewing

I am currently on a month long study leave. In the United Methodist Church, pastors are encouraged to take a week each year and a month each four years. After 28+ years, this is the first study leave I have taken.

It is in my nature to plan. I want structure, clear guidelines and obvious goals. When on vacation, I want to know when, where, and how long. Let's just say, flexibility and spontaneity are not my strong suits.

So, I chose NOT to structure this leave. I knew I wanted to read, to reflect and to rest. I knew I wanted to spend some time learning to use my "gadgets" better. I wanted some down time and some learning.

I have rested and for the first time in a long time, I don't wake up tired. I am enjoying reading. I have read or finished reading some amazing books. Some I had picked and put down because of lack of time, but not lack of interest. I have been journaling for the first time in years. I am scheduled for a social media class which I think will challenging and fascinating.

For renewal I have been using the books Guerrillas of Grace, by Ted Loder, The Illuminated Life, by Joan Chittister and A Guide to Prayer for all who Seek God, by Rueben Job.

What I have finished reading:

Saving Jesus from the the Church, by Robin Meyers.
Traveling with Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Monk
An Altar in this World, by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Starfish and The Spider, by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
take this bread, by Sara Miles

My favorites in order have been take this bread, Saving Jesus from the Church and An Altar in this World. I really appreciated The Starfish and the Spider for its insights into leadership and organizations.

Coming up:

Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf. Having started this book, I know it will take some deep digging, but I am truly enjoying it. Engage, by Brian Solis needs to be read by Wednesday before my class. Engage, like The Starfish and the Spider come out of the business world and look at leadership, customer service and how to be flexible in changing times.

So my reading continues and I am always,

Graced to Serve.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rewrite of the blog post: Words Matter

On June 1, 2009, I wrote this post in the aftermath of the shooting of Dr. George Tiller. I am reposting it with some changes as a response to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the death of six victims including Judge John Roll and a nine year old child and 12 more injured. There is already a flurry and war of words going on in the media, among the rigth and the left and everyone in between. I felt an edited version of this blog post might be helpful in this time.

When I was a child we used to chant, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." I most often chanted that when someone was calling me a name. Somehow in some way, if I used those "magic words" whatever hurtful, insulting or hateful things people were saying wouldn't matter.

Truth be told, it never worked. The names hurt, the words were painful for all that I attempted to be strong. Those persons who called me names or laughed at me or mocked me, knew the power they held.

As a preacher for 29 years, I know the power of the word. Words can comfort a grieving soul, words can inspire people to do great things. Words have the power to give voice to deep held emotions and beliefs. Words can share the depth of love and of faith.

Words also have the capacity to wound, to destroy and to incite persons to acts of hatred and violence. In that way, words are not neutral. What we say as human beings matter and matters deeply.

Not all persons are Christians, but followers of Christ have an interesting understanding of the power of words and the Word. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus took the commandments from the Hebrew Scriptures and said paraphrased, "You shall not kill, but any one angry with their brother or sister or insults them or calls them 'fool' is liable." Jesus goes on to say in the fifth chapter of Matthew that what we do in our hearts and minds is just the same as if we physically acted out those thoughts.

When we say hateful, violent words, when we wish ill or death or violence on another human being it is the same as if we actually lived out the action. I believe in a very real way, those who have posted on web sites, opinion lines, those who have passed out flyer's and leaflets, and gone on radio and television spewing hatred, spewing prejudice and encouraging violence have a responsibility when their words are taken seriously and acted upon.

For the past two years, in the midst of an election cycle, all kinds of hateful, vile and violent words have been used between candidates for election. The election was ugly and both sides promoted misinformation. The words hurled back and forth created an environment seemly closed to dialogue and to debate other than to shout down and shut down others.

The past two days comments on cnn, msnbc, fox, Wichita Eagle and Kansas television stations have not surprised me. I find the battle of words continues with insults to others who comment. In the online world where anonymity rules, some people really believe they can say anything they want and it does not matter. The more shocking, the more hateful, the more likely a reaction will occur.

For people who claim the name Christian, words matter. We are held responsible for the actions that occur because of what we say and do. We are called to a higher way of being, one of love, one of peace and one of grace. We can deeply disagree about our faith and how we live that out, but that does not leave any room for name calling, the hurling of insults or anonymous posts.

As a preacher, because I know the power of words, I find myself "filtering" rather than saying things that will had fuel to the fire, and promote more hatred and violence in the world. Words are sometimes "too easy" and I must be careful. A turn of phrase, a cutting edge to my voice, a slightly veiled insult does not promote what I believe is good and true. So, I continue to attempt to use my words to bring peace, love, justice and grace into the world. I know that words will break hearts and spirits. I will not use my words to incite anger and violence. I will lift up the families of all the victims, the community stunned by this senseless violence and all those struggling to heal from their wounds in my prayers as they walk through this difficult time.

I am committing myself once again, to lowering the violent rhetoric, to creating space for deep dialogue and disagreement and reminding everyone, words really do matter.

I am Graced to Serve.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year

I hadn't realized it had been two months since I last blogged. I had it on my "to do" list, but obviously it was never at the top of the list. There were many times I thought, "I should reflect on this or that" but never did in writing.

January is often a time of renewing, reflecting, "resolving" and beginning again. For the first time in twenty-nine years of ministry I am taking a study leave. In the United Methodist Church, our "Discipline" allows and encourages pastors to take a month every four years. Mostly, we, as in clergy, do not take advantage of it.

It is a surprise to me, that I am. I find it very difficult to unplug from the church. I know I need to, but nevertheless, it is hard. In the depth of my soul I find I am hungry for some deep rest, renewal and reconnecting with the God who loves and calls me not only into ministry, but into relationship.

So, I have a stack of books to read, some "technical" learning so I can use my devices and technology more efficiently and time enough to absorb it. I have time enough to rest, to spend time in the presence of the Divine and to renew my spirit.

I am grateful for this time and will use this space to reflect on it in the coming days. With this gift of study/renewal leave, I am, as always

Graced to Serve.